Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Taurus 2001***

Aleksandr Sokurov
The last days of Lenin (early 1920s), as he sinks into physical helplessness and mental decline. Lenin and his close family, living in the misty Soviet countryside, are evoked in poetically muted sounds and colors as the great man awaits the end. Stalin visits him twice and seems affable in a slimy way. He is crude in his behavior, as when he pinches the cheek of Lenin's wife in unwelcome familiarity, as if awaiting what is to follow. Lenin longs for death, the means for which have been removed, even as he implores his successor for poison. The portrayal of the decrepit and near imbecile Lenin is a fluent and convincing performance. If one were to draw a conclusion, even iron men have clay feet when confronted with their end. And Sokurov is eminent as a director.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Powder 1995***

Amateurish in direction and acting; lame in emoting; this film never the less touches the heart, and alongside a dose of paranormal gimmickry, intuits on larger issues of existence as few movies, if any, have done.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Square****

Jehane Noujaim, 2013
A graphic portrayal of society in the midst of bloody political turmoil. Egypt in the last few years has been engulfed in popular movements where people by the millions have taken to the streets and been mowed down on occasions by bullets and tanks. The film paints a vivid picture of the world as it is: the primitiveness of political organisation, in which exploitation is a running thread; the rigidity of power structures, which seldom yield without blood shed. The director is Egyptian-American. This also brings home the power of cinema to shape people's thinking--how the world wide screening of this excellent film would have made the powerful squirm. Of course, egos are made of sterner stuff. Incidentally, Egypt continues to seethe.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Russian Ark ****

Sokurov
He is involved in a train accident and wakes up in the Hermitage Museum, in a previous century. The film is known for its single long shot of 90 minutes. The time traveler or ghost is conducted  by a scruffy gentleman, who alone can see and talk to him, through the museum and finally a palace where he mingles with the nobility, as he admires the splendors of royalty. The film has the rhythms of a dream and is a journey beyond the grave, giving a subtle poetic conjuration about the nature of life, death and the unknown country; the process of dissolution of the old and the emergence of the new. A beautiful film, deserving a revisit.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Moloch 1999 ***

Sokurov
A fictitious story about Hitler depicted as part of a small inner circle including his mistress. The group relaxes in a building in glorious alpine beauty. Hitler is shown as quite a gallant, courteous and considerate even to the domestic staff. We see Adi (as Eva Braun affectionately alludes to him) gamboling with his aides in the Bavarian sun, playing the fool, war forgotten or afar, very much a fuehrer in the tomfoolery and pranks. The companions maintain a carefully orchestrated deference, giving way to pent up feelings of tension behind his back. In spirit it is not far from Chaplin's film. This is a macabre film: funny, beautiful as cinema, scary because of the associations, ringing true to the complexities and paradoxes which is human nature, disturbing because of the history to which the film is a never recounted background. Even human monsters are human beings.